Exploring Intercultural Communication in the Special Education Referral Process with Somali Community Members
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Given the recent growth of Somali-speaking families in American schools, it is important for educators to understand how Somali families and community members experience school processes to integrate feedback and develop an appreciation for their differing perspectives. The dual perspective of Somali liaisons, with fluency in school processes and Somali culture, is also uniquely important, as they act as cultural and linguistic brokers to facilitate shared meaning in high-stakes home-school communication such as in the special education referral process. Since there is a lack of peer-reviewed studies regarding Somali experiences during special education referral communications with schools, this study aims to address this issue by exploring how Somali parent, community members, and liaisons experience the special education referral process for Somali children. Additionally, this study seeks viewpoints of Somali community members and liaisons regarding culturally responsive communication practices that schools can utilize to enhance mutual understanding. A cross-cultural communication framework is used to analyze concepts such as cultural meaning and responsive communication. Somali interviews and school communication protocols are analyzed in this qualitative study via open-coding for themes. Results suggest that there may be discrepant cultural meaning systems regarding disability and special education between the Somali community and American schools. They also suggest that the congruence of meaning systems may mediate emotional experiences for Somali families and highlight issues of differential power during the special education referral process. Lastly, data suggest several ways that schools might enhance cultural responsivity by adjusting communication practices during the special education referral process; however, this does not address the underlying issue of class-based discrimination at play.
- Education - Seattle